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Mapping the Psyche

by Sam Addington

I sit here awash in the Great Collective Psyche. My thoughts are not my own; they are universal.

The Great Collective Psyche materializes for me as I sit in the Primal Sandroom. On every side, shelves! Not quite sure why, I gravitate toward an image of the Virgin Mary in glossy ceramic, a tall, lithe figure, pristine and white. I solemnly place her rear center in the sand of my box. Next to her I place the Chinese Goddess Quan-yin, slightly less virgin in appearance, slightly more human, equally as comforting. The two gaze adoringly upon a crystal marble, which I know is the pure essence that I call "me." My first sandbox is clean and symmetrical. I am loath to introduce the slightest shadow among the happy images. But the Shadow lurks beneath the dress of Betty Boop caught in her Marilyn Monroe pose above the air vent. I know that she too is me. My sexual shame is present in several of the figures so seemingly innocent. A black Cinderella dressed in bright pink takes center stage, protected by the wise Yoda leading her bravely onward. Am I truly a closet Drag Queen?

As I progress, my sandboxes become more poignant. I remember the hours I spent as a boy at play in the sand, bulldozing entire subdivisions and peopling them with toy cars. I place a wedding cake figure next to the newly carved road; a fish tank gazebo and a palm tree serve to round out the image of the idealized neighborhood of my youth. A black devil scurries down the road away from the wedded couple. How beautiful were my mommy and daddy! In the next sandbox I fence them in and fire down a barrage of artillery upon their heads.

I learned the beauty of Jungian Sandplay at the Primal Integration Center of Michigan. Before coming to the center, I worked with a psychodrama expert in Indianapolis where I was similarly impressed by the psychic map as it unfolded upon the stage. I remember one woman in particular who strategically placed pillows as she worked through the multitude of choices before her as she embarked upon a new career. Many of the dramas remain with me as I remember the dramatic changes in lighting the director used to highlight the mood of the piece. How shocked I was the first time I witnessed a grown woman go into hysterics.

The beauty of the Jungian Sandbox is its compact size. Psychodrama requires a stage and live players. The players in my sandbox dramas are always waiting for me on the shelves in Barbara Bryan's Primal Integration Center. I can stage the dramas alone and at my own pace. And I always have a Polaroid copy to document the event.

At the time of this writing I am still unable to fully face the shadow figures within my boxes. The image of the scared and fleeing boy still haunts me. I will continue to work with my psychic dramas until they become more clearly defined and until I become fully versed in their vocabulary. I will continue to cherish the opportunity to share in the sandboxes of others as I continue to marvel at the infinite variety of permutations that come from the finite shelves of Barbara Bryan's Primal Sandroom.

This article appeared in the Summer 1998 IPA Newsletter.

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